Researchers at King’s College London (and internationally) have developed techniques promising to accurately measure a person’s “biological age”. People of the same chronological age vary in their rates of “biological ageing” – sometimes by margins of up to 15 years, plus or minus – so an individual measure of biological age could be a more accurate prognostic measure.
The test under investigation involves examining the “ageing signature” in biomarkers of gene activity across 150 genes in the body’s cells. Such a test would potentially help predict when a person might die, and could help identify people at high-risk of dementia and other conditions; apparently largely independent of (or possibly impervious to) various lifestyle interventions. Such a development would have serious implications for the future of medicine, pensions and insurance, particularly as it is not (yet) known to how to slow the biological ageing processes in question.
Gallagher, J. (2015). Test shows how old your body really is. London: BBC Health News, September 7th 2015.
This relates to:
Sood, S. Gallagher, IJ. [and] Lunnon, K. [et al] (2015). A novel multi-tissue RNA diagnostic of healthy ageing relates to cognitive health status. Genome Biology. September 7th 2015, 16: 185.
“ …the molecular test could translate into a simple blood test to predict those most at risk of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias and suitable for taking part in prevention trials”.
Researchers develop novel test which can tell how well a person is ageing. London: Medical Research Council (MRC), September 7th 2015.
The following appraisal of this research from NHS Choices Behind the Headlines is more cautious in tone and offers a sense of perspective.
Blood test for dementia claims are premature. London: NHS Choices Behind the Headlines, September 7th 2015.
This topic was featured, nonetheless, in a review of significant developments during the year 2016:
Gallagher, J. (2015). Breakthroughs galore: a transformative year in medicine. London: BBC Health News, December 28th 2015.